In recent years I have developed an abiding interest in the Bach Chorales, singing and playing them daily as warm-up for my composing time, and making my own four-part settings in the old style. The chorales now regularly find their way into my music, and have become a significant “leaping off” point for me.
The first movement of Quintet No. 3 opens with the chorale “Ihr Gestim ihr hohlen Lufte” (“Your stars, your cavernous sky”). The movement is a “continuous play” kind of piece. After the chorale there is a sharply contrasting first theme, which works its way over time into a second theme, and this becomes the subject of a short and very pushy set of variations. There is a restatement of the first theme, and the movement ends with a blunt presentation of a new chorale: “Christe, der du bist Tag und Licht” (Christ, you are day and light”).
In the second movement, the chorale “Ermuntre dich, mein schwacher Geist” (“Take courage, my weak spirit”) serves as a backdrop for an impassioned flute soliloquy. This is an intimate and personal music. The movement closes with a simple and uninterrupted statement of the chorale.
The third movement is exceptionally demanding for the performers because of its speed and length. It is something of a sonata form. However, the second theme, which sounds like a chorale melody, becomes the subject of a set of variations. The movement finishes with a partial recapitulation and an extended coda.
Program Note by David Maslanka